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Get a Jump on Holiday Planning to Reduce Stress

As a caregiver, you know firsthand that there are never enough hours in the day, even during the slowest times of the year. How will you manage to get everything done over the holidays? You might cringe to see Christmas decorations in stores before Halloween, but if you start thinking about Thanksgiving in October, your early planning can help to lessen the stress of the always-hectic holiday season. Try these tips to get a jump on plans and see if they help reduce holiday stress:

Prioritize

The first step: Think about your family’s traditions, then look at your calendar. What are your obligations? What’s a priority? What are you happy to let fall by the wayside? For example, is this a year you can stay home for Thanksgiving instead of making a five-hour trip? If it’s important for you to bake platters of cookies, you might make a mental trade-off to leave some of the decorations in the closet, or to plan a cookie exchange—especially if you have a big project at work or your kids have a lot of activities.

Set a Schedule

Once you’ve figured out what you are—and are not—going to do, get out your calendar and plot when you’d like to do it as well as if there’s a grace period. Remember: It isn’t too soon to start shopping or planning menus. Check your cupboards for seasonal ingredients or equipment you might need to replenish. Do you need candles for the menorah or Advent wreath? How about paper goods for parties?

Make Sure Clothes Fit

As you pack up summer clothes and get out winter gear, ask everyone in the family to try on their party clothes (including shoes) to see what still fits and if anything needs cleaning or repairs. If your kids have holiday performances, check with band or choir directors before Thanksgiving to see about required attire so you’re not in search of black dress pants or a green bow tie two hours before show time.

Streamline Gift-giving

How many are on your holiday gift list? If you’ve watched your list grow from just siblings to include your siblings’ spouses, their kids, and now your nieces’ and nephews’ partners, you may well be over the thrill of finding the perfect present for everyone. Get rid of gift guilt and streamline the shopping lists by drawing names: Make it generational (cousins buy for cousins, siblings and in-laws buy for each other), or by family (put your and your siblings’ names in the hat and each nuclear family buys for the family it draws). When your shopping list is shorter, you may rediscover the joy in finding the just-right gift.

Shop from Home

What’s your time worth? If you avoid buying online so you can get in-store deals, you may end up spending more money when you factor in the time you spend driving to and from the mall (and looking for a parking space!) and fighting the crowds once you get there—not to mention the incidental costs of gas, refreshments, or those items that end up in your basket as you wander through the store. Many online retailers offer free shipping or promotions for shipping upgrades; most also offer special discounts to those on their email lists or who follow them on Facebook or Instagram.

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